7 Underrated skills that will boost your grades in class

Through no fault of their own, students can be caught unaware by poor or lacklustre academic performance. Falling into bad habits over a few weeks because they are burnt out or feel like they are stuck in a rut. Just like their adult kin, they are susceptible to mood changes, external impacts and stress. It has happened to all of us at some point; our productivity dwindles, our motivations fall short of expectations but stress levels run parallel with planes at 36,000 feet. 

The first step to combating these phases is recognition. Being able to recognise a slump in performance is pivotal to ensuring that you can affect the correct changes to turn it around. Understanding where you are lacking in your skillset and which are most impactful to your grades and wellbeing is just as important as learning new skills.

I am going to present you with 7 skills that in my opinion are the most valuable and will have the biggest impact on grades, employability but most importantly, personal development and are skills that can be transferred to any task, hence my belief that they are underrated. 

1: Efficiency

Work smarter, not harder is a common jokey phrase that people use when they feel as though they are taking a shortcut or cheating the system. But it should not be construed as a joke. It is true. Even if you don’t procrastinate and have every aspect of your life meticulously organised, time can be like Thanos, it can snap its fingers and you will have lost a whole day tackling a single task. The ability and skill to identify areas that help you reach the target in a more time-effective or cost-effective way are just as important as the result. 

Efficiency covers a wide remit of possibilities, you can be time-efficient, cost-efficient but most importantly energy-efficient. No, I’m not talking about your carbon footprint but how you exert yourself in different tasks. Growing up, I always had abnormally neat handwriting (I promise this isn’t a brag) but I tended to find myself pressed for time and asking the teacher to slow down. This was not efficient, I wasted so much energy writing out pointless words and irrelevant information and consistently found myself drained at the end of the school day. 

Being able to recognise the keywords, jot them down quickly and move on to the next task can help prevent the onset of burnout, maintaining energy levels throughout the day and ensuring that information learned is retained, thus boosting grades.

2: Resilience

The ability to withstand, then recover quickly from adversity, trials and tribulations. It is a skill that is not shrouded in the glory it should be bestowed. Every day we each overcome our own little battles, no matter the scope or impact they have, each is important. Having the skill to bounce back after a tumultuous period or experience, learning from it and using it to your advantage is the cornerstone of progress.  

There are 7 integral, interrelated components that form resilience - competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping and control. Otherwise known as the 7 C’s popularised by Dr Kenneth Ginsburg in his book “Building Resilience in Children and Teens” published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Each of the C’s outlined in resilience all have an impact on a student’s grades, for example:

  • Competence - Knowing that they can handle a situation effectively to the best of their ability will help them understand possessed shortcomings and identify strengths to help tackle the most challenging topics in class.

  • Confidence - A belief in abilities is derived from competence, confidence can be built up in many ways through recognition, praise and not pushing beyond what they can realistically handle. Having the confidence to tackle tasks as they come up will help students challenge themselves with more complex tasks and ultimately increase grades.

  • Connection - Developing close ties and a sense of community can create a sense of security, leading to strong value creation and helps work as a preventative to destructive paths that could have a negative impact on a student. By keeping a student, focused, physically safe and emotionally secure will help them flourish as they do not feel exposed to external pressures like conformity, boosting their grades in class.

  • Character - Developing a set of morals and values to help determine right from wrong will help students empathise better, bringing them alternate views on opinion driven topics allowing for deeper breakdowns in essays to achieve those higher grades.

  • Contribution - Every individual is unique, having an understanding of this and knowing the value they bring to the world is important as it can serve as a source of purpose and motivation. Being more motivated to succeed and continue contributing to the global community will help boost those marks in exams.

  • Coping - Nervousness and stress are an essential part of daily life and experiencing them is not a bad thing (in moderation of course). Being able to cope effectively with them when they crop up and impact tasks can help prepare students for other challenges and to cope under pressure in later life. It is no surprise then that being able to cope in exam situations is pivotal to raising attainment levels.

  • Control - The realisation that outcomes can be controlled by decisions is not one that comes readily, it takes time to take a step back and look at the butterfly effect. An understanding of the path that has to lead to a particular point and knowing the control they can exert will help students with their fundamental knowledge of topics, creating a stable foundation to build upon to help achieve those highest levels.

3: Empathy

Other people’s shoes, some look snazzy and are down with the latest trends. Others look well worn with frayed laces but ultimately they do their job getting people from A to B and neither is better than the other. Being able to put yourself in those different shoes (metaphorically) to understand what they have experienced and how an individual feels can enlighten your perspective on the world. 

The benefits for developing empathy in students are fruitful, they can lead to higher esteem, high levels of patience and yep, you guessed it - those grades will soar! Developing empathy will help to build stronger relationships which help with resilience, encourage them to be more tolerant and accepting of others, promote social harmony and reduce the effects of bullying which can have a traumatic effect on a students performance in school. 

Empathy is a difficult skill to learn, it takes time to fully appreciate the struggles and triumphs of other people. There are, however, a number of ways that students can develop empathy in class and at home with guidance from their role models. Providing a safe place at home or school to talk about their own feelings without fear of judgement is an important first step. Encouraging open conversation on how others may be feeling and presenting those feelings unchallenged can help students build emotional language and viewpoints from multiple perspectives. Placing importance on the care of the environment that surrounds them, caring for the animals and plants can help students understand the role we all play in surviving and thriving. Lastly, and perhaps one of the simplest ways to help students develop empathy is by reading books, watching tv, films and theatre to help them associate feelings and actions with their favourite characters and stories. 

4: Inquiry

All through school students are taught how to answer questions in the right way which will only get them so far. In order to reach their maximum potential and unlock those higher-level grades, being able to ask the right question is just as important. In a society that thrives on continuous innovation and improvement, the ability to inquire correctly to receive the correct information to help build a knowledge base is pivotal to helping the global community tackle topical issues like climate change, diversity and the global pandemic. 

5: Time Management

Time management is a skill often left underdeveloped given the fast-paced nature of the world that now surrounds us. The ability to be in constant communication with others through our phones and computers means we are more connected than ever. The benefits of managing time are incredibly simple, it will allow you to accomplish better results in a short period of time, helping you maintain focus, be more productive and free up your time for other activities.

One of the biggest benefits of good time management skills is a better work-life balance which is just as important for students as it is for adults. An essential benefit is that you begin to develop an understanding of the value of time, you are able to assign the appropriate amount of time to each task or portion of your day depending on what is most important to you and will lead you to a healthier and happier life. Building better habits are directly correlated with performance and those habits that require rigorous discipline to execute are not actually habitual in nature, it is an ongoing process of observation and correction. Understanding which habits are good and which are bad can alleviate a large proportion of time you thought inaccessible. Ponder the question, what am I doing this for?

6: Motivator Identification

Motivation is a word that gets bounded around all the time and we all know how we feel when we suffer from a lack of it but what actually is it? Motivation in its simplest definition is the reason for acting or behaving in a specific way. That’s it. No positive connotation, no negative connotation. Just why we are doing a certain thing in a particular way. 

So it is important to break motivation down and be able to identify positive motivators. There are 2 categories of motivation. Intrinsic, which can be defined as those motivating factors that come from within ourselves such as feeling good, a sense of pride, etc. Extrinsic motivation, as you can probably guess, are external drives that can be classified into 2 categories; reward and punishment.

Each individual is different and will have various motivating factors that influence them more than others, so it is vital for students to begin understanding and learning their own motivations from a young age as it will help them define their goals and raise attainment levels. It is a tough skill to learn and requires the presence of mind to detach yourself and view the situation from another perspective.

7: Stress Management

Unfortunately, stress is common amongst both students and adults, it has the ability to cause adverse mental and physical side effects if it is left unchecked. There is a multitude of identifiable symptoms that can affect academic performance. 

Short term stress can provide students with the extra push to raise a grade, polish off an essay or pursue a new opportunity. The problem actually arises, with long term stress which can lead to anxiety, resulting in lack of motivation, poor concentration and freezing which is not conducive to reaching those high grades. The skill to balance the stresses in your life is one of the most difficult and is a reason why the number of students experiencing a form of anxiety is on the rise. 

There are a number of ways that you can train yourself to control and manage stress levels, which is hugely important as you progress through life. 

  • Exercise - Working out regularly helps to relax the body and mind and improve your mood through the release of endorphins.

  • Relax your muscles - We tense up naturally when we get stressed so if you start to feel overwhelmed, a good stretch, a bath or shower and a good night sleep all help to loosen those fibres.

  • Talk about your feelings - Trust me, you are not alone. If you feel as though you are struggling, bounce your thoughts off another person. Even if they are not able to help you out directly with advice, having a sounding board to voice your feelings can help you analyse your own situation.

By practising and honing these skills as best as you can, you will see a marked improvement in attainment, be able to hold social situations better and become a well-rounded member of the global community. Some may struggle with a number of these skills and that isn’t a problem, they all take time to grasp so don’t be discouraged. 

If you would like to find out other ways you can boost grades, you may like one of our other recent blogs that lists the 7 most important benefits of tuition.

Looking to practice some other more technical skills but not sure where to start? Check out our list of fantastic tutors who will be able to help you specialise in your niche!

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James Gurnett

22nd September

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